Choo-choo train….

Posted: December 3, 2008 in evert bop, irish rail, train-fi, wifi

I have blogged on the topic of wifi on trains at the start of this year (here, here and here). The posts centered about the lack of wifi on Irish Trains and the apparent unwillingness by Irish Rail to even consider offering this service. All this culminated in a discussion between Barry Kenny (Irish Rail spokesman) and myself on the “Last Word” show on TodayFM. During this discussion I made the offer to Irish Rail to install a wifi service on their trains at no expense to Irish Rail. Even though he clearly wasn’t happy with my offer Mr.Kenny agreed to meet with me in order to discuss this.

Due to a strike by Irish Rail staff the actual broadcasting of this discussion was delayed by several weeks and I decided not to chase Irish Rail up in regards to this offer unless I didn’t hear from them after the broadcast. The broadcast came and went without a word from Irish Rail. It took several emails and calls from my side and eventually a press release before I received a reply from them. The matter was passed on to Paul O’Kelly their “Corporate & e-marketing” manager. I contacted Mr. O’Kelly to arrange a meeting during which we could discuss our offer and their requirements/parameters for such a service. After a few weeks of emails to-and-fro I was told that they were not willing to meet me unless I submitted a complete proposal for a wifi service. I replied by outlining that we were offering them to take a 3 million+ cost of their hands and that it was ridiculous to expect us to submit a complete proposal without actual having met and discussed their parameters for such a service. Obviously there would be requirements specific to Irish Rail that would needed to be met so preparing such a proposal without this information would be non-sensical and would doom the project to failure before it even started…

Irish Rail obviously saw the logic in this and forwarded technical information and requirements allowing us to start work on a proposal. I also arranged a meeting with Mr.O’Kelly to discuss our proposal further. During the meeting we discussed the deployment & benefits of a train-wide wifi network and the structure under which we could offer this to Irish Rail. Even though there were no costs involved in our proposal for Irish Rail he kept insisting that the provision of this service would have to be out out to tender. After some more prodding I was told that there was also another possibility whereby we would pay Irish Rail for the right to provide the service (i.e. similar to arrangements that they have with vending machine owners etc.) through this construction we could (legally) avoid the tender process. We agreed that I would consider both options and would contact him over the next few weeks to make clear which option we would prefer to take and also to receive further information needed to prepare full technical project specifications.

After we had considered the two options and explored the pros and cons of both I emailed Mr. O’Kelly some weeks later to let him know that we preferred the option whereby we would pay Irish Rail a fee in order to be allowed to provide a wifi service on their trains. I also included a list of questions. His reply took weeks to arrive (via email). I was informed that after internal decision they had made the decision that the provision of wifi services would be put out to tender and that they were preparing the tender document.
A bit of a disappointment but I asked him to please keep me up to date on the tender process. Weeks later I had still not received a reply or an update so I emailed him again. No reply…
Last week, weeks later again, I sent him another email politely asking for an update. As expected I also still have to receive a reply to that email.
As none of my emails have bounced back I assume that he has received them.

It is becoming clear to me that in spite of being offered the service at NO COST Irish Rail is still not interested and hopes that I will just go away if they ignore me often and long enough. Fact is that this won’t happen! There is a need for this service along with a clear benefit for Irish Rail (increased ticket sales, more satisfied customers, improved internal & external communication). I still have to come across someone who does not see the benefit in the provision of this service. The fact that a state-owned body (i.e. paid for by the tax-payer) willfully ignores the need for this service even when they would not incur any capital expenses in providing this is un-acceptable. Taking weeks to reply to an email or not replying at all indicates a lack of respect and is unprofessional to say the least…


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